Schick Hydro Preview: Warriors v Bulldogs
Mount Smart Stadium
Friday, 8pm NZT, 6pm AEST
After 14 games the Warriors and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs sit level on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder with just 24 differential points between them ahead of their meeting at Mount Smart Stadium on Friday night.
Both sides come off a bye last week, having gained pressure-relieving wins in Round 14, with the Warriors disposing of the Gold Coast Titans 34-12 and the Bulldogs upsetting the St George Illawarra Dragons 16-2.
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has welcomed hooker Nathaniel Roache back onto the bench in the place of Ata Hingano, while Solomone Kata is away on bereavement leave in Tonga following the sudden death of his older brother this week.
That means David Fusitu'a reverts to the centres while rookie Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is named on the wing. Kieran Foran will be given until Thursday to prove his fitness after suffering a quad injury in Round 14, with Hingano named as cover.
For the Bulldogs, livewire five-eighth Josh Reynolds is a huge inclusion for Des Hasler's side, with his return from a hamstring injury meaning Kerrod Holland drops out of the 17 while Matt Frawley shifts from the No.6 jersey to the interchange.
The Dogs are otherwise unchanged from their last-up victory.
Why the Warriors can win: The Warriors have shown they can really turn it on in attack this year when they win the battle in the middle, and they come into Round 16 off the back of a showing against the Titans where they made seven line breaks and ran in six tries, doing so while achieving an 86 per cent completion rate. The Bulldogs on the other hand have the NRL's worst attack. They haven't managed to score more than 24 points in a game this year, have been held to 12 or less on six occasions and across the whole season average just 13.8 points per game. If the hosts can manage more than four tries it's unlikely the Bulldogs will foot it with them.
Why the Bulldogs can win: While their struggles with the ball are obvious, if the Bulldogs can defend like they did in their last match against the Dragons they will win most games regardless. Against a team who heading into that match had averaged 22.6 points per game to be among the competition's best attacking outfits, the Bulldogs scrambled valiantly on both edges of the field to protect their line with their only points leaked coming via a penalty goal. You won't lose many games in the NRL if you don't let the other team score tries.
The History: Played 35; Warriors 13; Bulldogs 20; Drawn 2. The overall record sits in the Bulldogs' favour and their recent run against the Warriors makes for nice reading for them as well, with six wins from their last seven meetings, including a 24-12 win against the Kiwi side in Dunedin earlier this year. Travelling to New Zealand for this match will hold little fear for the Dogs, who have won 15 of 24 competitive games in the country, stretching across five different venues.
Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant referee: Peter Gough. Sideline officials: Belinda Sleeman and Chris McMillan. Review official: Steve Chiddy. Senior review official: Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6.00pm (AEST). Sky Sports - Live coverage from 8.00pm (NZT).
NRL.com predicts: Given both sides produced one of their best performances of the year in Round 14, they probably could have done without the bye last week which potentially stalls any of the momentum generated. The Bulldogs have played their best in 2017 when their backs are against the wall, but this Warriors team have too many positive aspects to their game when they are on and should be able to score enough points to get past the visitors on Friday night. Warriors by eight.